By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
In just a little more than a year since its inception, See Venus has generated more buzz than most local bands do in their entire careers -- and thanks to the Internet, the group has done it without performing a single live show. Thirty-year-old founder and guitarist Christopher Moll has geared up the troops to sate local interest, but See Venus's ultimate goal lies far beyond South Florida stardom. “In the long term, I don't think there's anything that we could get from a local scene that we couldn't do for ourselves,” says Moll from his Fort Lauderdale apartment.
Strong words but as a veteran of the local music scene, he knows that wowing 'em at Churchill's is not an end in itself. “Playing live is just another aspect of the whole thing,” he says. “If any label did come knocking, I'm sure that's one aspect that they'd want to make sure was in place. I think it's going to come in very handy when we start the next wave of recordings.”
Cut to the South Miami apartment/rehearsal space of 23-year-old keyboardist/trumpet player Eddie Alonso, where the rest of the band, all inhabitants of that city, have gathered with Moll for a practice session. Twenty-year-old vocalist and guitarist Rocky Ordoñez is lying on the carpet at the foot of a staircase, casually strumming the acoustic guitar resting atop her bare midriff. Above her towers an array of keyboards, from analog dinosaurs bearing names like Moog and Farfisa to high-tech digital samplers. The apartment appears to belong to them more than to Alonso; the only other bits of furniture include a few chairs, a delicate Japanese-style partition separating the keyboards and computers from the solitary dining room table, and a mattress covered with a white llama-fur comforter under the stairs.
The band also performs at midnight, Saturday, November 18, at Piccadilly Garden's "PopLife ," 35 NE 40th Street. Cover is $5.
Twenty-one-year-old bassist Eric Rasco reclines on the mattress, caressing the soft, fluffy blanket. Backing vocalist and keyboardist Erica Boynton, also age 21, sits on the floor. Moll perches on a small black chair with an acoustic guitar on his lap, prepared to lead the group in an impromptu rehearsal. Alonso stands with his back to his bandmates as he toys with the Moog. Twenty-year-old drummer Chris O'Malley counts off for the group by brandishing a set of car keys in one hand and an egg shaker in the other, creating the bossa nova swing beat that carries “Boy Bubble Blue.” As Moll accompanies her, Ordoñez sits up and swings into the song's lazy, light melody on her guitar. She closes her eyes and sings, her seductive vocal line sweetening when Boynton chimes in with a high harmony. Alonso conjures a percolating electronic swirl on the Moog while Rasco just lies there, quietly stroking the comforter, looking as if he's about to doze off.
It's a spare quiet moment for See Venus, but even stripped of the decorative intricacies featured on the band's five-track demo EP, the song is a work of sweet, satisfying pop. See Venus's EP, available as individual MP3 files on the group's Website (www.seevenus.com) and as a homemade CD-R, is simply titled Extended Play. The members recorded the songs piecemeal, adding layer upon layer of musical elements in any place that reproduced sound well: bedrooms, closets, warehouses -- everywhere but a traditional recording studio.
The result is a surprisingly expert mix of intricate alt-pop songs full of harmony and multilayered melodies, revealing a studious respect for the Beach Boys and the Beatles as well as contemporary influences such as Air and Stereolab. “Shine Like Stars” opens with a fluttering flute sample and a backward loop, which suddenly explodes into a lazy drumbeat and electric guitar strumming, decorated with the scrape of a guiro and bells that seem to harmonize with the flute loop. Ordoñez's luscious voice fills the remaining space with a smooth tone not far removed from that of the Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan. And that's all within the first ten seconds.
“Are You Ready?” is a driving instrumental that bobs along on breakbeats and bubbly synths, while Ordoñez coos a variety of ooohs, las, and da-dums. The wondrous “Boy Bubble Blue” features a synthesized harmonic hum that shimmers below the breezy Brazilian bounce of acoustic guitar plucking and the woodblock beat of its samba rhythm. The band augments this Jobim-inspired flair with electric guitars, electronic beeps, and a chorus that squawks endearingly through a megaphone.
The idea that eventually would become See Venus began on Moll's home computer in the mid-Nineties. He had just endured the breakup of his previous band, a power-pop trio called Twenty-three, leaving behind an incomplete catalogue of songs.
He began toying with samples and then decided to quit lead-vocal duties and focus on a search for another singer. He met Ordoñez one night at a Coral Gables art gallery. Alonso came into the picture next. “He has this hypermelodic style that blends very well with what we're doing right now,” says Moll. “I will say this, and I'm very pleased about it, too: This is the first time I've been able to sit and collaborate with somebody musically.”